BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
RAITH ROVERS boss John Hughes insists he is facing the toughest challenge of his managerial career after questioning the character and quality of his players.
The Fifers slumped to a miserable 4-0 defeat against Dumbarton on Saturday to send them deeper into a relegation battle, with Hughes’ “fragile” charges now just four points above ninth-placed Ayr United.
Rovers’ dismal display against the Sons brought them crashing back down to earth following their first win in 17 games just three days earlier against St Mirren.
And Hughes has pulled no punches in the assessment of his players, and what will be required to climb the Championship.
He told Raith TV: “This is the hardest challenge I’ve had, because I’m honest enough to say I don’t think we have great footballers at the club and I don’t think we can look after the ball well, so we won’t dominate possession
“I understand that, but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be solid, with everyone doing their jobs; fit and organised. I don’t know what tune they are playing to – if they play to mine, we’ll be fine. If they play to their own, we’re in trouble.
“Before you can think about passing the ball and doing our stuff, you need to go mano a mano.
“I think one or two turned up against Dumbarton and didn’t fancy it – you cannot do that, you can’t turn it on and off.
“Going there – seeing the rain and the pitch – I thought ‘we’ll see what these boys are about’. I got my answer and now I know why we are where we are.
“It’s 100 per cent about character but you don’t want to tell them that because they are fragile. Maybe we don’t have enough character in the dressing room. But we’ve got what we’ve got, and we need to take a few home truths on the chin and use it to make us better.
“I don’t think we’re a great football team. Our top scorer has four goals so we’re not a free-scoring team.
“I’m trying to guide them and help them out, but some of them need to look at their performances, that’s for sure. I’m not asking them to be great on the ball, I’m asking them to go toe-to-toe with their opponent and win the battle.
“I’m a man of the world, I’ve been in the game, and I can understand that one or two of these guys are hiding and thinking they are getting away with it. If you are going to do that, be honest and don’t put the strip on.”
Meanwhile, Raith have confirmed the departure of Ryan Stevenson.
The former Hearts and Ipswich midfielder took to social media last Friday to announce his retirement from football at the age of 32 and, after completing the paperwork, the Stark’s Park club have made the news official.
A brief statement noted: “Raith Rovers FC confirms that we have terminated Ryan C Stevenson’s contract with immediate effect, at his request, after he indicated his intention to retire from professional football.”